McCabe v. Worthington
57 U.S. 86 (1863)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McCabe v. Worthington, 57 U.S. 16 How. 86 86 (1863)

McCabe v. Worthington

57 U.S. (16 How.) 86

Syllabus

The Act of Congress passed on the 3d of March, 1807, 2 Stat. 440, declared that all claims to land in Missouri should be void unless notice of the claim should be filed with the Recorder of Land Titles, prior to the 1st of July, 1808.

Hence, in the year 1824, a claim which had not been thus filed had no legal existence.

The Act of the 26th May, 1824, 4 Stat. 52, authorizing the institution of proceedings to try the validity of claims, did not reserve from sale lands, the claims to which had not been filed as above.

Therefore, when the owner of such a claim filed his petition in 1824, which was decided against him, and he brought the case to this Court, which was decided in his favor in 1836, but in the meantime entries had been made for parts of the land, the latter were the better titles.

Moreover, the Act of May 24, 1828, 4 Stat. 298, provides that confirmations and patents under the act of 1824 should only operate as a relinquishment on the part of the United States. Therefore, the confirmation by this Court in 1836 was subject to this act.

This was an action of ejectment commenced by the plaintiff against the defendant in the state circuit court of Missouri, where the defendant had judgment, which, on appeal by the plaintiff to the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri, was affirmed by that court.

Page 57 U. S. 87

The plaintiff's title rested on a concession by the Spanish government in 1796, which was confirmed by a decree of the Supreme Court of the United States on the 21st January, 1836, on an appeal from the district court of Missouri, which exercised jurisdiction of the subject matter, under the provisions of the Act of Congress of May 26, 1824, entitled

"An act enabling the claimants to lands within the limits of the State of Missouri and Territory of Arkansas, to institute proceedings to try the validity of their claims."

The petition was filed by the claimant, Antoine Soulard, on the 22d August, 1824.

In January, 1825, an amended petition was filed by Antoine Soulard, who afterwards died, and on the 4th Monday of March following, the proceedings were revived in the name of the widow and heirs of the said Soulard, and such proceedings were had that a decree was rendered against the petitioners by the district court on the 4th Monday of December, 1825, from which an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States was taken within one year from its rendition, where, on the 21st January, 1836, the decree of the district court was reversed, and the claim of the petitioners was confirmed for all the land claimed, except that which had been sold by the United States before the filing of the petition in the case.

In pursuance to this decree, the land claimed and confirmed was surveyed, and the survey returned to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, on which, on the 22d December, 1845, a patent was issued to the petitioners under whom the plaintiff claims. The land sued for is comprehended within the limits of the survey and in the patent of Soulard's widow and heirs. No notice in writing stating the nature and extent of his claim was ever delivered by Soulard to the Recorder of Land Titles under any of the acts of Congress in relation to that subject. The defendant relied on patents from the United States issued in the year 1836, founded on entries made in the year 1834, while the case of Soulard, widow and heirs, against the United States was pending in the supreme court, which patents embraced the land in controversy.

On the trial in the state circuit court, the counsel for the plaintiff prayed the court to instruct the jury as follows:

"First. That the decree of confirmation, made by the Supreme Court of the United States on the 21st day of January, 1836, to Julia Soulard, widow, and James G. Soulard and others, heirs of Antoine Soulard, deceased, relates back to the time of filing the petition for confirmation, and passes to the confirmees the title to the land thereby confirmed, so as to cut out all titles and claims thereto originating after the filing of said petition."

"Second. If the jury believe from the evidence that the land

Page 57 U. S. 88

sued for was patented by the United States on the 22d day of December, 1845, to the widow and heirs of Antoine Soulard, deceased; that such patent was issued for land surveyed for said patentees in pursuance of a decree of confirmation made by the Supreme Court of the United States, and that such decree of confirmation was founded on a petition for a confirmation filed in the United States Court for the District of Missouri on the 22d day of August, 1824, such patent conveyed to the patentees a better title to the land sued for than that derived from an entry of the same made after the said 22d of August, 1824, or from a patent issued on such entry."

"Third. If the jury believe from the evidence that Antoine Soulard, on the 22d day of August, 1824, petitioned the District Court of the State of Missouri for the confirmation of his title to a claim for 10,000 arpens of land; that said Antoine Soulard died, and the suit was revived and prosecuted in the name of his widow and children; that the said district court decreed against the said claim; that said suit was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, within one year from the time of the rendition of said decree by the district court; that said supreme court afterwards decided in favor of the said claim, and by a decree confirmed the same to said widow and heirs; that the Surveyor of Public Lands for the State of Missouri caused the land specified in said decree to be surveyed for said confirmees; if the jury find these facts to be true, then the said widow and heirs of Antoine Soulard had, by virtue thereof, a better title to the land included in such survey than the defendant can have to any part of it by virtue of an entry made after the said 22d of August, 1824, or by virtue of a patent issued on said entry."

"Fourth. The title under the confirmation of the Supreme Court of the United States to the representatives of Antoine Soulard is a better title than that of the defendant."

"Fifth. The Act of May the 26th, 1824, passed by the Congress of the United States, reserved from sale the lands included within the bounds of all claims of the character embraced within the provisions of the first section of that act, from the time of the filing of the petition for confirmation of such claims in the District Court of Missouri, until such time as said claims should be finally decided against the claimants."

"Sixth. Any entry of land made within the limits of any claim, of the character embraced within the provisions of the first section of the Act of May 26, 1824, after the filing of the petition of the claimant in the district court, as provided for by said act, and before said claim shall be finally decided against the claimant, is a void entry, and the patent issued thereon is a

Page 57 U. S. 89

void patent. Which instructions the court refused to give; to which refusal the plaintiff then and there at the time excepted."

And the court, on motion of defendant, gave the following instructions, to-wit:

"1. If notice of the Soulard claim was not filed with the Recorder of Land Titles in St. Louis prior to the first day of July, 1808, then said claim was not by law reserved from sale, and if not reserved from sale by law, was subjected to sale as other public lands."

"2. If Soulard's claim was not reserved from sale, then the entry of the defendant, if made according to law, being older, is a better title than the plaintiff's confirmation."

"3. The patent of the defendant is prima facie evidence that this entry was regular and lawful."

"4. The Act of Congress of 26th May, 1824, under which Soulard's claim was confirmed, did reserve from sale the land covered by said claim, and any sales of such lands regularly made prior to the confirmation, conveys to the purchaser a better title than said confirmation, such claim not having been filed with the recorder prior to July 1, 1808."

"5. The commencement of a suit by Soulard in the United States court, for the purpose of obtaining a confirmation of his claim, did not operate as notice of his claim, so as to affect a title otherwise regularly obtained from the United States, and sales of such land, made after the commencement of this suit, stands upon the same ground as if made before such suit was commenced."

To the giving of which instructions the plaintiff then and there at the time excepted.

Upon these exceptions the case went up to the Supreme Court of Missouri, where the judgment of the court below was affirmed. And to review this decision the case was brought here.

Page 57 U. S. 95

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